Large-scale early deployments of 5G networks are waiting just around the corner, but already at this year’s Mobile World Congress, Ericsson was successfully using a 5G network covering the complete Ericsson hall, for several of the live demos with highly relevant use cases on the hall floor and at an off-site installation.
This year, we didn’t show any 5G test beds or prototypes in the same way as we did the two previous years – instead we showed 5G as an integral part of four cutting-edge demos in the Ericsson hall at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Spain. Inside the Ericsson area, we had four transmission points each for 15 GHz and 28 GHz, providing excellent 5G coverage throughout the entire hall.
Together with Telefónica we also showed off remote car driving with video and haptic feedback to the driver’s seat inside MWC. Here, we used antenna beam forming and antenna beam tracking and a 15 GHz radio to follow the moving cars on a 5G covered test track in the Idiada car test facilities, located an hour’s drive southwest of Barcelona.
We were using the same advanced antenna technologies for 5G that we demonstrated at MWC a year ago. The two cars in use were two electrical Research Concept Vehicles recently built and delivered by the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden. Sitting in the driver’s seat inside the Ericsson hall, 50 kilometers away, with a large, three-screen cockpit in front of me and seeing how the wheels turned and feeling how the car moved over speed bumps, or when a safety co-driver stepped into the real car, was a fantastic experience. I don’t think the latency was noticed by most of the test drivers – driving the car remotely was very close to being there and most of the (hard-to-notice) latency was introduced from the coding and decoding of the video signals, not by the 5G system itself.
It is truly amazing to see how the 5G ecosystem is evolving and expanding, and this year we showed a new mobile terminal from Intel operating at 28 GHz with a form factor significantly smaller than our 15 GHz test bed equipment first shown more than two years ago. Using 5G and carrier aggregation on both up- and downlink made live streaming of video a trivial task. The Intel mobile terminal communicated with a nearby transmission point using antenna beam forming and beam tracking technologies on both the transmitting and receiving ends.
We also presented our first end-to-end system realization using the 5G radio together with a virtualized packed core and virtualized upper levels of the RAN functions. We ran media delivery of multiple 4k video content but still only occupying a tiny fraction of the capability of the system (we had to limit ourselves and keep the installed TV screens to a reasonable number).
Finally, Ericsson Research used a 5G radio operating at 15 GHz for a demo that showed how 5G can be a platform for the Networked Society, combining diverse technologies like radio and fixed access, distributed cloud, machine learning and orchestration into one integrated machinery, hiding most of the underlying complexity. The demo showcased two simultaneous use cases that partly shared the same infrastructure: The distribution of massive amounts of media content to consumers and a collaborative robots’ control solution in an industrial context. Here, we moved robot control away from the local robots and into the cloud where advanced tasks like pattern recognition and machine learning were used in the decision making of the robots’ movements and letting it solve the robots’ collaborative tasks. The latency in the set-up was a blistering 3.5 milliseconds measured from the robot over the 5G radio to the cloud execution environment and back to the robot.
I have had the fortune of being part of the Ericsson research and development of five wireless generations – all the way from our first deployments of AMPS and TACS voice-only systems back in 1984 to the mind-boggling capabilities of 5G systems currently in development. I can’t help being impressed by seeing the 5G network running four consecutive days (well, many more days if we count the installation and set-up), night and day in our hall at MWC and at the test track outside Barcelona without any downtime and running multiple demos, multiple mobiles units and actual use cases. I don’t think anyone else in Barcelona came close to such demonstrations and showing the maturity of 5G technology development.
We are once again turning our research innovations into realities!